WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Pink Elephants, LaLa Land, & Bad Eggs

Nov 4, 2017

The current exhibit at the Buchanan Center for the Arts in Monmouth features the works of surrealist painter James Walker Henry of Burlington, Iowa.  He's especially pleased to be showing some of his larger works.

“Everybody likes to see large work. I like large work. That’s the first thing I look at when I go to a museum. And it’s the first exhibit I’ve had that many large works in one show,” Henry said.

Some of the larger pieces measure up to 5’ x 6’ and have titles such as Politically Incorrect, God is an American, and Pink Elephants. Henry said the Buchanan Center is a great place to display larger works because the gallery is big and well-lit. 

He estimated 12 of the 17 works in the show are brand new.  Some of the other pieces have titles such as LaLa Land, Bad Eggs, and House that Ronald Built.

“I’m documenting life through my paint brush. I choose social and political issues because it’s like I’m documenting time,” he said. “I don’t always have to do serious subjects. Sometimes I like to have a little fun with it.”

The exhibit, When Worlds Collide, remains on display at the Buchanan Center for the Arts through November 18, 2017.

For the opening reception a couple weeks ago, Henry wore a custom-made surrealistic suit.

"Workforce" by James Walker Henry
Credit Courtesy of the artist

“I’ve been doing this for years (creating the suits) so I feel like I’m playing part with my art.  And at the opening I had (a suit) I call my Spiderman suit,” he said.

Nine of his suits are now on display at another art center in the tri states – the Art Center of Burlington.  The suits along with photos of Henry wearing them are being exhibited in the Center’s mini-gallery for the month of November.

Henry, who received the Distinguished Alumnus award from Southeastern Community College in 2016, said he developed his interest in surrealism when he was a student at SCC.

“I took art history. And when I started reading about the surrealists – Dali, Magritte, Miro – I liked what they had to say. They had a message so I really enjoyed that.”

He’s gone on to enjoy a long and successful career.  Henry said he’s been painting professionally for more than 35 years. He said in November 2015 he completed his one-thousandth painting.  He said the pieces displayed at the Buchanan Center are the only ones still in his possession – the rest have been sold, auctioned off, or donated.